From West Virginia, Katherine Johnson’s mathematical abilities were noticed at an early age, jumping her several grades ahead in school. She went to work for NASA, and its predecessor NACA, as a member of the all-black West Area Computing section, where she was crucial in the orbital mission of John Glenn in 1962.
Katherine broke boundaries throughout her life. In 1939, she was selected along with two men be the first black students offered spots at West Virginia University.
While at NASA, she was the first woman in the Flight Research Division to receive authorship credit on a report coauthored with engineer Ted Skopinski about orbital spaceflight. In the historic orbital mission, John Glenn refused to go up without Katherine redoing the computer’s calculations by hand. “If she says they’re good,’” Katherine Johnson remembers the astronaut saying, “then I’m ready to go.”
For more information, check out https://www.nasa.gov/content/katherine-johnson-biography!